Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Automatic City, a Concept Challenge

In real life, I'm a programmer. I like putting a series of commands into a computer then watching as it carries them out. In Minecraft this translates as being interested in automation, getting the game mechanics to do stuff for me. It makes things faster and easier and allows me to move on with what I want to do. That's another reason why I like mods such as MineColony and Millenaire; the NPCs do things that would otherwise be required of myself.

Recently I thought of a new goal for myself: to make an automated, self-sufficient city sporting various contraptions to work for me. This includes: mob traps, harvesters, self-repairing walls, cobblestone generators, TNT cannons, sewage system, light sensor-operated lightstone streetlights, and so on. This kind of thing would demonstrate a mastery over the game and also make it more convenient for me.

Then I thought, "This could be a good challenge." On the Minecraft forums, people have made plenty of challenges and my idea seems somewhat interesting, I think. There are several types of mobs that could be used as citizens of the city - the Testificates, Snow Golems, mod-added entities, etc. How about designing a city that features automation of all sorts that has the look and feel of an actual, inhabited settlement? It would feature things like a section devoted to homes, farming area, a downtown market, and whatnot. Encasing it would be a self-repairing defense wall with TNT cannons and arrow dispensers. In a user-chosen location would be a victory monument that symbolizes the player's mastery of Minecraft. The various aspects would be assigned numbered scores so people could compete to make the best, most automatic and sophisticated city they can. I think "The Genius" would be a good name for the challenge.

What say you all?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Opinion Time.

Each time Minecraft has ever had an update, there were scores of people who whined about how the new stuff supposedly ruined the game. Consider beds. On the Minecraft forum, there were many people who complained that the survival aspect of Minecraft was somehow damaged because of the fact night time could be skipped and how one's spawn point would be changed. Or wolves. Mobs that could become hostile and kill a player even on Peaceful, but be tamed and become "game-breakers" with how a player could amass a wolf army and obliterate mobs. Or the villages and the accompanying villagers. There are those who have griped because they don't want villages in the game, and others disliked how the villagers (a.k.a. Testificates) looked. We were originally promised Pigmen but instead got what look like Squidwards with unibrows.

I am not one of those people. Has Mojang ever added something that I didn't like? Not really, no. It's always been my opinion that it's Notch's game and he can add whatever he wishes. I just adapt to what comes. If I don't like something, then I don't use it. Or I find a mod that adds/removes that issue. For instance, Millenaire and MineColony were chosen to accomodate for the emptiness of the worlds.

Now, I say all that to say this. In my opinion, I think the last rush of additions were just that... rushed. Specifically, the things that were related to the Endermen, and some stuff that followed. This is just an opinion and I could be wrong in my observations, but here's my two cents.

The Enderman was made out of a moment of frustration on Notch's part. It's not entirely creative; rather, it was based upon the Internet creepypasta called Slenderman. It was made to be creepy. To be honest, I find them a little creepy. They're quite a peculiar addition to Minecraft but I don't have a problem integrating them into the experience.

Yet out of this random idea came an entire dimension of Minecraft - literally. Notch combined the Sky Dimension with Endermen to make the End. This name comes from how it's intended to be part of the endgame scenario of Minecraft. Two quips I have with this: first of all, Minecraft is at its core a sandbox game. This means it has no discernible storyline or end. Secondly, calling it the End to mark how it's one of the last things a player does is a play on words that only works in the English language. And then there is the Enderdragon. It is designed to be difficult to beat, the culmination of all efforts in Minecraft. Again, this tries to place an artificial ending to Minecraft. But also, a dragon? That is already heavily used in fantasy MMOs and RPGs. It heals itself using crystals. The End system seems lacking in creativity. Surely Mojang could have done better with this.

Let us turn our attention to the Blaze and Magma Cube, two hostile mobs added to the Nether. Before the start of the overhaul in 1.8, Minecraft had a simplistic, 8-bit feel to it. But these two mobs, and also the Silverfish to a lesser extent, seem to ruin this feel. The two Nether mobs in particular seem overly complex in design for Minecraft. Consider the Blaze. It has no real body, just smoke particles with a head and several rods. It just looks and behaves in a way I would expect a console mob, not a Minecraft one. The Magma Cube has a lava core and moves around like a spring. Compared to Ghasts and Zombie Pigmen, they simply feel out of place.

My last critique will be the potion brewing system. Several items such as spider eyes, Blaze rods, Magma cream, and Nether warts were added for no reason except for brewing. This seems a little off, as I've noticed how in the past items were typically given multiple uses (or at least, attempts were made). What really gets me is how redstone and glowstone dust are both agents in brewing. This does accomplish the task of giving at least glowstone dust another use. Still, it seems awkward.

With all of this I would like to conclude by saying that I do not look poorly upon Mojang for adding these things. Nor do I believe they have done bad to the game. It seems that after 1.7.3, they began losing creativity and started pushing it toward more of an RPG direction. Although this probably did appease many people, I am not one of them. It seems rather half-baked. Nonetheless, Minecraft is still an incredible and inspiring game. I will continue to play as long as I find it amusing. If I don't like something I will not use it. And if I do like something that I've never used before, I will integrate that in my gameplay.